Minneapolis police staffing woes worse than anticipated

Police in uniform raise their right hands.
New police officers raise their hands to take an oath at a Minneapolis Police Academy graduation ceremony at the Minneapolis Convention Center on on July 17, 2020. A Minneapolis City Council committee Thursday gave the go ahead for the Police Department to hire more officers this year.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2020

There are far fewer police officers patrolling the streets of Minneapolis so far this year than city officials anticipated. Members of a City Council committee Thursday approved $6.4 million for the city’s Police Department to hire dozens more officers this year.

Chief Medaria Arradondo told the committee that 105 officers left the department last year, which is more than double the average attrition rate. And so far this year, 155 officers are on leave and are not available for duty.

“This presents operational challenges for me as chief,” said Arradondo, adding that the department is becoming one-dimensional, meaning officers mostly respond to 911 calls instead of doing what he calls proactive policing.

City data show in January the number of working police officers dropped from 817 to 638. That includes the officers on leave. It’s not clear how many of those officers will return.

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Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo speaks during a press conference late last year.
Brandt Williams | MPR News 2020

Police Department Finance Director Robin McPherson said to her knowledge none of the officers who went on leave last year have returned to duty.

The council created a public safety staffing reserve fund in this year’s budget. Funds in the reserve could be accessed by the chief after presenting a hiring plan to the council.

Arradondo did so Thursday.

Council member Steve Fletcher said at the time the fund was created, Mayor Jacob Frey and the council debated whether the department would have between 750 and 888 officers.

"Obviously these projections don't get us into either of those ranges,” he said. “So I'm comfortable saying that in the universe that we live in now, this is a staffing approach that makes sense."

Under the chief’s staffing plan the department could have as many as 674 active, sworn officers on the streets at the end of the year. The full council still needs to vote on the plan next week.